‘Migration – Apprenticeship – Career’ was the theme for the Otto Benecke Stiftung e. V.’s 22nd FORUM MIGRATION, held in the Post Tower Bonn on 30th November 2017. Experts and practitioners in vocational education discussed the opportunities available to people, and the bureaucratic obstacles they face in the transition between school and employment – especially for refugees. The well-attended event attracted 400 delegates from the educational and qualification sector, as well as from senior staff in federal, municipal and labour administrations and the voluntary sector. All agreed the existing refugee integration programmes needed to be standardised across Germany, but also needed improvement. There was unanimous support for an immigration law to be submitted by the new federal government.
In his introduction the Chair of the Otto Benecke Stiftung e. V., Dr Lothar Theodor Lemper, illustrated the background against which the current debate about refugees is proceeding. Recent decades have shown integration effort to be most successful when it fosters migrants’ own potentials and hence their integration into the job market. Current challenges are to accelerate the process of granting asylum, intensify language learning, and to design and implement education and qualification programmes more precisely.
In her speech the State Secretary of Integration in North Rhine Westphalia, Mrs Serap Güler, outlined both the challenges and opportunities faced by the Federal Republic, its states and municipalities following the immigration of one million refugees: ‘Integration courses, the recognition act and a permit to start an apprenticeship are important steps toward successful integration. However, their execution has yet to be optimised.’ The new NRW government identifies four areas that integration policy must address: language, education, employment and values. With a strong infrastructure of 53 communal integration centres, there is a good local overview of where integration is exemplary, or where indeed improvement is required. For example, integration courses could be tailored more specifically to the needs of the participants. The possibilities offered by digitization could be better applied in language courses and in the recognition of credentials.
Professor Dr Herbert Brücker, director of research for Migration, Integration und internationale Arbeitsmarktforschung (Migration, Integration, and international labour market research), at the Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB) (Institute for Employment Research in Nuremberg spoke about the current challenges of integrating migrants, and refugees in particular, into the labour market. He based his presentation on the results of surveys performed by the IAB and the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF) (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees). Regular censuses had shown the qualifications structure at both ends of the qualifications spectrum to be highly polarized, meaning that above average numbers of refugees either have no school leaving certificate at all, or attended secondary school and graduated successfully. Vocational training however plays only a marginal role in refugees’ home countries. The consequence for the labour market is that many migrants will be overqualified for the work they do, and the importance of educational certificates will decline. A further consequence is that the inequality of income distribution will increase.
During the discussion ‘Problems and new approaches in integration into the primary job market’, Evelien Willems, staff member of the IQ specialist department Beratung und Qualifizierung (Guidance and Qualification), explained the characteristics of the 2012 so-called ‘Anerkennungsgesetz’ (Recognition Act), which for the first time created a legitimate claim to individual equivalence assessment. This assessment is totally independent of citizenship and residence permit status, and comprehensive guidance facilitates nationwide counselling (IQ Network). A unified approach is not yet however achieved where documentation is missing. There remains much work still to be done for Ms. Willems, especially in the area of qualification where new course formats could support more rapid access to the German labour market (keyword: apprenticeship training, blended learning).
Murat Ünlü, General Manager of the Vest GmbH training and service centre, described his own good experience with the ‘Gemeinsam in die Ausbildung’ (GidA) (Training Together) project organised by the OBS in three training centres in Recklinghausen, Duisburg and Gera. The GidA pilot project, funded by the Bundeswirtschaftsministerium (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy), successfully linked several existing tools; assisted apprenticeship, ‘Einstiegsqualifizierung’ (entrance qualification) and language courses, held concurrently in a single location so allowing learning difficulties to be more easily addressed. Important to the motivation of these young adults is that the trainers are always on-hand for the participants.
Hans-Jürgen Sassenberg, a senior service expert in Bonn, related his experiences as Senior Expert for the Bonn/Rhine-Sieg KAUSA Service Centre, a project under OBS’s patronage. He emphasised that voluntary workers need an organisation to belong to, one that guides and promotes them. Only in this way could voluntary activity be effective.
In subsequent discussion it became clear that renewal of the three-year training regulations was urgently needed, which furthermore would have to be tailored to the needs of refugees. It would for example make sense for partial qualifications to be recognised, and for companies to lower their expectations.
Professor Dr Michael Heister, director of the department Berufliches Lehren und Lernen, Programme und Modellversuche (Vocational Teaching and Learning, Programme and Pilot Experiments) at the Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB) (Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training) spoke about new approaches to ease the transition from school to employment. Professor Heister reported on the rigorous selection processes in play when entering training and in the apprenticeship market – due to social origin, migration or educational background, or region. In 2014 over two million young people aged 20 to 34 were without formal qualification. Special measures were then needed, such as guidance through the apprenticeship, or the so-called assisted apprenticeships for young adults with special needs to help them enter and complete an apprenticeship, instead of unsuccessfully sending them from one lot of training to the next. In his view no particular route is necessary; instead individual support and closeness to the company is needed to keep young adults in their apprenticeships. Refugees in particular need special support to access an apprenticeship, together with training-led German courses, additional vocational education or help with the formalities.
During the discussion ‘Der Arbeitsmarkt als Integrationsmotor’ (The labour market as motor for integration), Professor Dr Marc Thielen, head of the department Erziehungs- und Bildungswissenschaften (Educational Sciences) at the University of Bremen, made clear that consideration should be given to part-time apprenticeships and longer duration apprenticeships, in view of the fact that one-quarter of all apprentices quit their vocational training.
Hans-Jürgen Böhme, deputy principal of the Robert Wetzlar Bonn vocational college, told the audience that he had a waiting list of over 1,000 people who had applied for international preparatory courses where migrants are prepared for a school-leaving qualification or apprenticeship.
Dr Frank Bruxmeier, director of the Duisburg Handwerkskammer (Chamber of Crafts and Skilled Trades) educational centre and partner to the ‘Gemeinsam in die Ausbildung’ project, described the task of the project as supporting both the disadvantaged and the local economy of Duisburg. ‘Not one of the 30 apprentices has quit their apprenticeship – that’s good news. And companies have embraced their apprentices with open arms.’ Dr Bruxmeier outlined the obstacles that must be urgently overcome. For example, a refugee could not apply online to a big company if he was unable to upload his last four certificates. Or, is a secondary school certificate needed to qualify for an apprenticeship in geriatric care? The GidA project had shown that young people needed guidance in an apprenticeship, and companies needed organisational help when taking-on refugees into apprenticeships. Continuation of the project would look for particular trainees for companies.
Aziz Sariyar, Chair of the Verband türkischer Unternehmer und Industrieller in Europa e. V. (Association of Turkish Entrepreneurs and Industrialists in Europe), based in Düsseldorf and Oyun Ishdorj, director of La NOOS GmbH Bonn, illustrated in their statements how self-employment could boost integration.
The president of the Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks (ZDH) (German Confederation of Skilled Crafts), Hans Peter Wollseifer, regarded over 600 educational centres to be cutting edge in integrating refugees into employment and qualification. Numerous projects and initiatives were started successfully by regional trade and crafts organisations and the ZDH. President Wollseifer called the GidA pilot project a good example of definitive qualification programmes that had been implemented by the three educational centres above. The project, developed and coordinated by the OBS, prepared 120 young refugees and young people who possessed no initial training to start their vocational training in trades and crafts. ‘The structure of the pilot project is exemplary. The choice of participants, the analysis of their needs for educational and technical qualification, as well as the on-the-spot mentoring are delivered by the same people at the same place’, says Wollseifer. As a result, migrants were gaining future prospects, and the trade and crafts sectors skilled employees. With a lack of employment-friendly basic conditions however, such programmes could not work. That is why Wollseifer stressed the central association’s task of creating such legally-regulated framework conditions: implementation difficulties exist that had hindered the commitment of trade businesses to the integration of refugees in apprenticeships and employment, such as the so-called ‘3+2’ regulation of the integration law which had been interpreted very differently by immigration offices. As a consequence, refugees could be deported before they started, or in the middle of their vocational training. To run an entrance qualification, companies needed the assurance that the programme could lead to an apprenticeship and long-term employment.
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